- George Richards of Florida Hockey Now pegs winger Grigori Denisenko as a likely candidate from development camp to make a push for a full-time role with the Panthers this season. The 21-year-old, a 2018 first-rounder, got into seven games with Florida in 2020-21 but wouldn’t be a good fit in a depth role as he’s waiver-exempt and more of an offensive-minded player. But if he can show that he’s ready for a spot on the top three lines, he’d likely leapfrog many of the depth additions that Florida brought in this summer.
One name stands out high above the rest when it comes to the potential 2022 unrestricted free agent class and that is defending Selke Trophy winner Aleksander Barkov. The Florida Panthers star has quietly established himself as an elite two-way center and a dependable point-per-game player. At just 26 years old next summer, he has room to grow as well. It is not often that a young, bona fide No. 1 center hits the open market and there would be no shortage of teams willing to hand Barkov a blank check next offseason.
Of course, the Panthers hope it never reaches that point. The team took a major step forward this past season, finishing in the top-five of the league standings and in front of their Atlantic Division rivals Tampa Bay, Boston, Toronto, and Montreal. Barkov is at the core of that success, but Florida believes that they have done enough to show Barkov that he has the talent around him to bring an elusive Stanley Cup to Sunrise. ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski spoke with Panthers GM Bill Zito, who said that the team is not even considering trading Barkov before he has the chance to walk. Zito said a drop-dead date does not exist and even posited that Barkov could sign a new long-term extension before the season begins.
Does the player feel as strongly? Florida Hockey Now’s George Richards has talked to multiple sources and he echoes the sentiment. Richards states that Barkov and the Panthers began negotiations as soon as they could on July 28 and talks have been going well. Like Zito, these other sources also believe that an agreement could be imminent that keeps Barkov off the market and in South Florida for years to come. The holdup may simply be that the team is waiting for their superstar to return from Finland to sign the deal in person, making for a special announcement that will delight fans and disappoint 31 other teams.
Jumbo is on his way to Sunrise. The Florida Panthers have signed Joe Thornton to a one-year contract for the 2021-22 season. The deal is worth the league minimum of $750K. GM Bill Zito released a statement explaining the move.
With more than 1,600 games played in the NHL, Joe will bring a wealth of experience to our locker room and lineup. His drive to succeed is unmistakable and we are thrilled that he chose to sign with our club and that he believes in what we are building here in South Florida.
Thornton, 42, continues his chase for the elusive Stanley Cup with another contender, joining the loaded Panthers forward group as a potential depth option. Last year with the Toronto Maple Leafs the former Hart Trophy winner started on the top line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, but was barely playing by the time the team was eliminated from the postseason. In 44 regular season games, Thornton recorded five goals and 20 points, while he added just one goal in the playoffs.
There are certain things that Thornton can still do well, but overall his game has diminished considerably over the last few years. Even in 2018-19 he recorded 16 goals and 51 points for the San Jose Sharks, totals he has barely matched in the two seasons since combined.
In Florida, he won’t be asked to play top-six minutes given their impressive depth. Even players like Anthony Duclair, Frank Vatrano or Patric Hornqvist might find themselves in the bottom-six depending on how things shake out, meaning there won’t be many minutes left for the grizzled Thornton.
Still, he certainly brings no lack of experience to the table. Thornton sits sixth all-time in games played and could potentially reach third if he plays in the majority of games next season. At some point, things will have to end for the legendary forward, but it’s not just yet.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
The Florida Panthers have worked out a deal with newly acquired Sam Reinhart, inking the restricted free agent to a three-year contract. Reinhart was acquired last month from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a 2022 first-round pick and prospect Devon Levi. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that the deal will carry an average annual value of $6.5MM. GM Bill Zito released a statement on the deal:
Sam is a gifted and versatile talent that will play a key role for our team in the coming seasons. One of several players to commit to our organization with a multi-year contract this offseason, we are excited to see how these players come together and continue to build a foundation for success in South Florida.
The three-year deal buys out two seasons of unrestricted free agency for the 25-year-old Reinhart, who already has six full campaigns under his belt in the NHL. Selected second overall in the 2014 draft (right behind teammate Aaron Ekblad and two spots ahead of teammate Sam Bennett), he has been one of the most consistent players for the Sabres over the years even as the team failed to have any success.
In five of his six seasons, Reinhart has recorded at least 22 goals and matched his career-high with 25 even in this shortened 2020-21 campaign. That 25-goal, 40-point performance is even more spectacular given the fact that Jack Eichel missed most of the year, meaning Reinhart was able to create that kind of offense almost on his own in Buffalo. The next highest goal total on the Sabres was Victor Olofsson’s 13, not offering a ton of opportunity for Reinhart to rack up assists.
That will certainly change in Florida, where he could very well line up beside Aleksander Barkov for parts of the year. That is of course unless they use him as a full-time center, something he never really did in Buffalo. Either way, the number of talented forwards that will surround Reinhart will be in stark contrast to what he had with the Sabres, which could very well lead to a career year.
He’s certainly getting paid for that upside though, as Reinhart is suddenly earning more than any other forward–including Barkov–on the Panthers. That would have likely been the case even if he went through the arbitration process though, as he was due a $5.2MM qualifying offer and had an outstanding case given his consistent offensive numbers. Even if it’s a bit weird for him to be the most expensive forward on the team, it likely will only be for one season. Barkov is scheduled for unrestricted free agency in 2022 and will need a huge extension, while Jonathan Huberdeau is also only signed for two years.
With all of their restricted free agents now signed, Florida is still nearly $2MM under the cap ceiling. The team could potentially even add more depth, or continue to accrue room to make a splash at the deadline.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
The NHL’s having its biggest news day in a while today, as top stories include the New Jersey Devils’ acquisition of Tomas Tatar as well as clarity on future salary cap increases. And while it’s a banner day for the NHL news cycle, the rest of the hockey world is making some noise too. Every move made has some form of ripple effect, and that’s evident more in no other place than a list of minor transactions. Today is no different.
- Per CapFriendly, the Calgary Flames are inviting enforcer Alex Gallant to their training camp on a professional try-out. Gallant, who carries no relation to New York Rangers coach Gerard Gallant, is somewhat of a minor league journeyman. Never drafted, he’s only tallied more than 10 points in a season once at any level. His willingness to fight and leadership in the room is what’s kept his career alive, and the Flames have taken notice. Gallant’s actually spent the last two seasons in the Calgary organization, playing a combined 61 games with the AHL’s Stockton Heat. He’s put up 10 points and 171 penalty minutes across those two years, and a return to Stockton is likely for Gallant if he gets an NHL contract out of the experience.
- Also broken by CapFriendly today, netminder Evan Fitzpatrick has been invited to attend the Florida Panthers’ camp on a PTO. It’s actually certain that Fitzpatrick will spend time within the Panthers organization next season, after the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers inked him to an AHL deal on August 2. Fitzpatrick, who’s a former second-round pick of the St. Louis Blues, was left unqualified this summer after he struggled to get consistent playing time in any league over the past few seasons. And while his numbers have been largely unimpressive since turning pro, Fitzpatrick did post a .930 save percentage last season in a small sample size with the AHL’s Utica Comets. He’ll now take his talents to the Southeast, where there’s still hope for the 23-year-old goalie.
- Perhaps the most unlikely netminder to see NHL action this season, goalie Michael Houser has re-signed with the Rochester Americans on a one-year AHL contract. As Buffalo’s top four netminders in Linus Ullmark, Carter Hutton, Dustin Tokarski, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen were all out with injury at the end of this season, Houser got the call-up to the big show. Playing in four contests, he played admirably, posting a .901 save percentage and a 2-2-0 record. The seasoned AHL veteran will likely be a mentor to Luukkonen in Rochester next season, but more NHL action seems unlikely for Houser.
The Florida Panthers have re-signed Chase Priskie, bringing him back on a one-year, two-way contract. Priskie was eligible for salary arbitration but decided not to file. The financial details have not yet been released.
Priskie, 25, will be eligible for Group VI unrestricted free agency next summer, unless he somehow secures a full-time spot on the Panthers blueline. That’s unlikely given he hasn’t played a single game above the AHL to this point, but he can still represent some valuable depth for the upcoming season.
Signed by the Carolina Hurricanes after deciding to test free agency in the summer of 2019, Priskie was actually the top college player available when draft rights expired that August. He was seen as a player that could potentially push for an NHL roster spot quickly, given his success at the college level, but the Hurricanes put him in the minor leagues with the Charlotte Checkers given their already full defensive group. In Charlotte, he recorded 31 points in 52 games, but was included in a deadline trade to acquire Vincent Trocheck.
In Florida, he still hasn’t cracked the NHL, and given he is still waiver-exempt for another year, might have to wait for an injury (or several) to get his chance.
With Chris Driedger now in Seattle, there is an open spot as the third-string goaltender for the Florida Panthers. The team signed Christopher Gibson earlier this week, but now have their internal candidate locked up as well. The Panthers have agreed to terms with Sam Montembeault on a one-year, two-way contract. CapFriendly reports that the deal is worth $750K in the NHL, $250K in the AHL, and has a $300K guarantee.
Montembeault, 24, played 25 games for the Panthers in the two seasons before 2020-21, posting a 9-8-3 record and an .892 save percentage. With the emergence of Driedger and the addition of Spencer Knight, his spot as an injury fill-in for the NHL squad was lost. This year he went 8-4-1 for the Syracuse Crunch, posting an .898 save percentage as the Panthers shared an affiliate with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Next season, he’ll likely head to the Charlotte Checkers for plenty of playing time, though waivers will now be required to get him to the minor leagues. The 77th overall pick in 2015, Montembeault still has plenty of time to polish his game enough to challenge for an NHL spot somewhere around the league. He seemed on that track in 2019-20 when he had a strong .918 for the AHL club, something he’ll try to get back to this time around.
With Montembeault signing, it brings some attention to a goaltending depth chart that is relatively thin. He and Gibson have 41 NHL games combined, meaning if Sergei Bobrovsky or Knight get injured, there will be an inexperienced option coming in to replace them. Beyond those four the organization doesn’t even have another goaltender signed to an NHL contract, something that will likely change in the coming weeks.
When Zito was with the Columbus Blue Jackets, severing as GM of the AHL affiliate, Dalpe was his star. The minor league forward recorded 55 points in 55 games during the 2018-19 season with Cleveland, earning a place at the AHL All-Star Game. The next season, he returned as captain of the team under Zito’s management and added another 11 points in 18 games.
This season, after Zito moved on to Florida, Dalpe was still captain of the Monsters, but bounced back and forth between the AHL, NHL and taxi squad all season. He ended up playing more for Columbus than Cleveland, suiting up 12 times in the NHL and recording three points. Joining the Panthers organization now, Dalpe will likely serve as that same injury replacement at the NHL level but help the Charlotte Checkers tremendously as a leader and veteran forward. The two-year deal gives him some career stability, something that minor league veterans rarely find.
The Panthers have brought forward Maxim Mamin back to North America as Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reports (Twitter link) that Florida is close to signing the 26-year-old to a one-year contract with an AAV below $1MM. The team later made it official, announcing they’ve signed Mamin to a one-year deal worth $975,000.
Mamin was a sixth-round pick of Florida (175th overall) back in 2016 and signed his entry-level deal a year later, leaving CSKA Moscow of the KHL to do so. He played in 33 NHL games with the Panthers during that stretch but opted to go back to CSKA once it was finished where he spent the last three seasons.
Mamin is coming off a strong season back home, one that saw him notch 15 goals and 20 assists in 55 games, both career highs while chipping in with a dozen points in 22 playoff contests. That is enough for GM Bill Zito to want to bring him back to Florida to give him a chance at earning a regular spot in the lineup. It’s a low-risk move for both sides as a contract at this price tag won’t have a significant effect on their cap situation while allowing Mamin to test unrestricted free agency a year from now.
Florida added Brandon Montour back at the trade deadline and it appears they liked what they saw from the defenseman. Former NHLer Shane O’Brien of the Missin Curfew podcast was the first to report (Twitter link) that the Panthers have re-signed the blueliner; Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli adds (Twitter link) that the deal will carry a $3.5MM AAV. CapFriendly reports that the structure of the deal is as follows:
2021-22: $750,000 salary + $1.75MM SB
2022-23: $750,000 salary + $3.5MM SB
2023-24: $775,000 salary + $4.475MM SB
Two years ago, the 27-year-old looked like he was going to be a core NHL defender to the point where Buffalo traded a first-round pick to get him. However, he struggled at times during his tenure with the Sabres who had given consideration to non-tendering him back in the fall. They ultimately did reach a new deal with him (one that actually paid $350K more than this contract) and flipped him to the Panthers for a third-rounder in April.
Between the two teams, Montour managed seven goals and 11 assists in 50 games during the regular season while averaging a little over 20 minutes per game. His role was a little shorter in the playoffs, however, as he logged 17:06 per night while being held off the scoresheet in their six-game opening-round loss to Tampa Bay.
Nevertheless, Montour still lands a nice contract, one that was made possible with yesterday’s trade of Anton Stralman to Arizona for cap relief. He should slot in on Florida’s second pairing behind Aaron Ekblad who will be ready to return next season after missing the end of the year plus the playoffs with a leg injury. Florida now has a little over $10MM in cap space, per CapFriendly, with a big chunk of that slated to be earmarked for Sam Reinhart who was acquired at the draft.